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Best Practices Before the Storm

Posted by Tal Porat | September 1, 2017

As hurricanes, tropical storms, and other natural disasters begin to brew, municipalities and leaders must make tough decisions regarding preparedness and civilian evacuation. This is not as easy as saying “leave your homes and come back when things settle down.” Many families cannot afford to miss days of work; they don’t have a place to stay or cannot afford hotel surges; and even if they do try to evacuate, they get stuck in unmanageable traffic, taking countless hours to travel a few miles.

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Considering these obstacles, making the decision to evacuate is tough. Similarly, companies need to be smart about bracing their operations for potential disaster — because they are essentially deciding to reorchestrate a new supply chain in a matter of days.

When trying to decide on appropriate measures regarding potential weather disruptions, a few operational best practices can help your company make difficult decisions. These best practices help keep priorities aligned and keep teams proactive rather than reactive.

The first thing to check is your current contingency plan and when it was last revisited. If you find yourself blowing the dust off old binders, you likely won’t find relevant information. Furthermore, it is much easier to make tough decisions on trusted protocols and standards. Contingency planning doesn’t only help increase resilience, but it helps companies take decisive preventative actions before disaster strikes. It is also important to revisit your contingency plan after disaster strikes and assess how your current protocols fared. Don’t be afraid to revise your process as you measure it against reality.

In Japan, with almost 2000 quakes felt each year, most of the businesses were equipped with business continuity plans after the 2011 quake and tsunami. Large automakers have shifted their final assembly locations throughout Japan, US and nearby regions in Mexico to avoid complete stoppages. In addition, these also reduce  the cost of building vehicles due to lower wages, shipping costs and free trade agreements. Nissan has established protocols for getting production back up and running; Fujitsu initiated a company-wide disaster prevention organization, including regular site inspections and readiness-drills; and Toyota Motor Corporation created the Reinforce Supply Chain Under Emergency (RESCUE), a database for full information of direct and indirect suppliers ready whenever a disaster occurs.

Secondly, it’s important to be ready to master the information quickly. When in the face of disasters, it is easy to let chaos reign. But this approach will halt your remedial efforts and result in missed opportunities. Remember your goal: customer satisfaction. With that value as your beacon of light, you can master the necessary information to move at-risk shipments, for example, or purchase dwindling materials from alternative suppliers to seize limited resources before competitors. Mastering the information will put you ahead of the chaos turnado, rather than getting swept up in it.

Lastly, make information available as you rally your troops. Transparency will help you mobilize the the necessary agents through a centralized communication system. This will help you harvest brainpower and jump into action, rather than bouncing emails back and forth, wasting time and energy, and increasing the risk of operational impacts. Don’t try to resolve the problem in siloes or through personal heroics. The more connected your supply chain is across functions and the more information you make available, the faster your teams will move toward resolution. Companies should err on the side of caution rather than the side of complacency. The alternative? Missed opportunities, dwindling resources, shipment losses and delays, and frustrated customers.